First Position (2011)

First Position
Director: Bess Kargman
“Cast”: Aran Bell, Rebecca Houseknecht, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Miko Fogarty, Jules Jarvis Fogarty, Michaela Deprince, Gaya Bommer Yemini

First Position is a documentary that follows a few young dancers as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix – the world’s largest international ballet competition that promises scholarships and work contracts. Already just getting there takes a lot of work, commitment, training time and money.

First Position is an excellent documentary that manages to show both the passion, hard work and love that goes into dancing and, seemingly in passing, the economic, physical and emotional downsides as well. It’s interesting, entertaining and there’s dancing – which makes it pretty much perfect.


I love dancing, and I love ballet, even though I’m rather aware of the catastrophic effects it has on people’s bodies and the amount of stress, sweat, tears and blood that goes in it if you want to do it as a little bit more of a hobby. I also know that it’s an expensive sport and you need a lot of lessons and private tutoring, which you have to be able to afford.

But I’m no ballet dancer myself and there were quite a few things that I wasn’t aware of. Like that a pair of shoes costs around 80 dollars and you can only use it for a couple of days max. That’s just insane.


But despite casting a realistic eye on the issues with the sport, that’s not the documentary’s focus or what you should take away from it. First and foremost, the documentary is about the kids and their dreams and their families who try to support them as best as they can. That support can take various forms, with some seeming healthier than others, but it’s all done with a lot of love – there is no parent who tries to live their ambition through their children, as is so often the cliché.

And the dance scenes were wonderful. All of them seemed extremely talented, but especially Gaya Bommer Yemini blew my mind. She absolutely gave me goosebumps when she danced. I could watch her again and again. And I could watch this documentary again.


Summarizing: if you’re interested in dancing, you should definitely watch it.

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